By: Ella Clarke, Presidential Management Fellow
Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment
Sally Benson, Deputy Director for Energy and Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition
Today marks the opening of the 27th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. This annual meeting is a unique opportunity to engage with global partners as we work together to accelerate climate ambition towards a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.
Last year, the world left Glasgow with renewed incentive to keep alive the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. The United States has now taken major steps to advance global action to reduce emissions and enhance resilience to climate impacts, including through substantial new efforts to mobilize climate finance. Building on these efforts, we are committed to further advancing action and innovations in science and technology that provide solutions to tackling the climate crisis.
From the outset, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken bold action to rapidly reduce emissions across major sectors—achieving huge milestones on solutions like offshore wind, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and clean manufacturing.
The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden is the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history. This law puts the United States on track to achieve President Biden’s ambitious goal of cutting U.S. emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030. It also demonstrates that the United States will deliver on its climate commitments for years to come.
People around the world are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, from devastating wildfires in the Amazon, to flooding and storm surge from Hurricane Ian here in the United States. The Biden-Harris Administration remains deeply concerned about the worsening impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable countries and communities as a result of a warming planet, and is committed to raising ambition when it comes to adaptation and resilience.
To advance U.S. climate goals and equitable mitigation and adaptation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has been laser-focused on informing and advancing the innovative solutions needed to ensure that we can limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C and build a resilient and equitable world. As COP27 begins, here are a few issues that we see as critical to these goals:
Accelerating investment in nature-based solutions
Nature plays an immense role in our lives – it is where we live, work, learn, and play – and offers untapped solutions to tackling the climate crisis, stemming biodiversity loss, and incorporating equity considerations throughout. President Biden paired his early climate commitments with the first ever national conservation goal – to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. These actions recognized the splendor of nature as well as its critical role in achieving climate goals. Nature-based solutions – actions to protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural or modified ecosystems to address societal challenges and benefit people and the planet – are key to hitting these marks.
America’s forests alone absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 10% of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. And some researchers estimate that nature-based solutions, including restoring more forests, wetlands and coastal marshes, can contribute up to 30% of the progress needed. Early investments in nature-based solutions – like creating living shorelines, and reviving urban and rural forests – show that they are cheaper, more effective, and longer-lasting than built infrastructure resilience solutions. And they often yield multiple additional benefits for communities, like protecting roads, cooling homes, and slowing fires.
We are missing big opportunities to stabilize the climate and revitalize nature. Investing in forests, urban parks, coastal wetlands, and other nature-based solutions provides powerful and smart dividends to complement investments in electric vehicles and solar panels. Join us at COP27 as we push to accelerate investments in nature-based solutions to improve the lives of people around the world, enhance economic prosperity and tackle the triple crisis of climate change, nature loss and inequity.
Accelerating climate innovation
To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, we also need to ensure the success and rapid adoption of mid-to-long term technologies needed for a clean, secure, and equitable clean energy transition. This requires even faster technology innovation, scale-up, commercialization, and deployment of technologies and strategies to reach net-zero. Success will require nearly complete transformation of today’s energy system — which relies on fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide (CO2) to meet 80% of global demand — to one that relies on zero- or negative-emission technologies. Success will also require addressing industrial, agricultural, and land management-related emissions. Rapid innovation is needed to globally advance technology adoption and integration.
The Biden-Harris Administration is accelerating clean energy innovation by launching the Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative to supercharge the public and private climate innovation ecosystem. Game-changing energy innovations will help enable the United States to meet President Biden’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, and provide opportunities for investments in underserved communities, development of an inclusive clean energy workforce, and long-term transformation of the energy system. Sally Benson, Deputy Director for Energy and Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition at OSTP, will be on-the-ground at COP 27 and sharing more on the Biden-Harris Administrations’ efforts toward a successful energy transition.
Elevating Indigenous Knowledge in decision-making
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to elevating Indigenous Knowledge in Federal research, policies, and decision-making through the White House Indigenous Knowledge initiative. Indigenous Knowledge is one of the many important bodies of knowledge that contributes to scientific, technical, social, and economic advancements and our collective understanding of the natural world. Meaningful inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Knowledge in national, regional, and international climate science, policy, and action can enhance global understanding of climate change, its impacts, and solutions for creating a better future for all.
On November 15, OSTP is hosting a COP27 U.S. Center event with the UN Foundation and NDN Collective entitled, “Indigenous Knowledge in Global Climate Science, Policy, and Action.” White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory will present on the forthcoming first of its kind OSTP-CEQ US government-wide Guidance on Indigenous Knowledge and the event will be moderated by the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Director Wahleah Johns. The event will include Indigenous leaders and experts discussing the role of Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous People in tackling the climate crisis. Learn more and listen in HERE.
Highlighting the ocean as a climate solution
The ocean is often portrayed as a victim of climate change, but is, in fact, central to the solutions we need for climate change, food security, equity, economic growth, and more. A report commissioned by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, in which the U.S. participates, concluded that the ocean could provide up to 21% of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to achieve the 1.5 °C target by 2050, significantly accelerating the push to put the ocean on the climate agenda. Join representatives from Ocean Panel countries on November 15 for a session sponsored by OSTP, the Department of State, and the Ocean Panel Secretariat to hear countries’ updates about progress in ocean-climate solutions. Join the event HERE.
To accelerate our ocean-climate action, the Biden-Harris Administration has set ambitious goals to tackle the climate crisis and deliver economic benefits at home by initiating a process to develop an Ocean Climate Action Plan; public comment is open until November 18 to provide input on the Plan. The Biden-Harris Administration is also bringing an enhanced focus on ocean-based solutions towards 1.5° to COP27 through high-visibility initiatives and partnerships – such as the Ocean Conservation Pledge and the Green Shipping Challenge. Announced at the Our Ocean Conference in April 2022, the Ocean Conservation Pledge’s goal is to raise participants’ commitment to conserving or protecting 30 percent of ocean waters under their jurisdiction by 2030 – which is critical for protecting biodiversity, conserving blue carbon, and supporting local economies. To tackle emissions from the shipping sector, the United States and Norway announced the launch of a Green Shipping Challenge for COP27. Nine countries and the European Commission subsequently expressed support for the Challenge during President Biden’s Major Economies Forum. Join Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment at OSTP, as she shares more about the importance of ocean climate solutions and what the Biden-Harris Administration is doing.
OSTP is proud to join with our colleagues to highlight science- and knowledge-based efforts, designed to accelerate effective action to build a truly sustainable future for people and the planet.